29 Dec 2003

New Zealand MP wants government to accept some Nauru hunger strikers

10:30 am on 29 December 2003

A New Zealand MP, Keith Locke, is calling on the government to break the deadlock over hunger-striking asylum seekers on Nauru, and allow some to move here as refugees.

Forty five of the mostly Afghan 284 asylum seekers on the island have been refusing food and water, and some have required hospitalisation.

Keith Locke, says officials here should accept a proposal by the hunger strikers to meet along with the Australian immigration and United Nations officials, to solve the problem.

He says the Australian government's refusal to do so is irresponsible.

"We should do what we did a couple of years ago in the case of the Tampa and take in a significant number of asylum seekers. We should do our bit and help embarrass the Australian government into treating the situation seriously and not just dumping people who arrive on their doorstep on Nauru for ever and ever."

MP Keith Locke.

The government has not yet responded to the hunger strikers' request for a meeting.

Meanwhile, an Australian woman trying to help the asylum seekers says she fears some will die soon.

Elaine Smith, from a group calling itself Rural Australians for Refugees, says she is in daily telephone contact with people living in the Nauru camp.

She says nearly three weeks of starvation is taking its toll.

They do get revived with i/v drips when they lapse into unconsiousness but this isn't sufficient to give them mental functioning. So they are not able to understand anything that is going on at the moment and not able to make decisions. They are really waiting for death.

Elaine Smith says the Australian and New Zealand governments should address their plight urgently.